June 4 vigil in Hong Kong
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Plan to engage more activists in next June 4 vigil

Plan to engage more activists in next June 4 vigil to 'send message' to Beijing

Organisers stress importance of unity and acknowledge the need to hear out different views after criticism marred this year’s event

Organisers of the annual June 4 candlelight vigil have pledged to team up with local and mainland activists to send "an even stronger" message to Beijing next year, to mark the 25th year of their pursuit of justice over the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

The event on Tuesday night collected less funds from the public than last year, said Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the organising Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

But donations made in yuan were similar to last year's, indicating consistent participation from mainlanders.

Lee promised to strengthen ties with other activists, including the young, as the organisers prepared for the next anniversary in the light of criticism in the run-up to Tuesday's rally.

"The alliance will listen humbly and interact with residents," he said on RTHK yesterday. "We need to improve and progress with the times."

Details such as the format, songs and speeches of the vigil, which critics said were turning into "formalities", would be open for discussion, Lee said.

"While the focus of the vigil must remain on mourning the dead, in the year ahead, we could [encourage different bodies] to hold more events," Lee said. "We can also visit more districts to explain what happened in 1989, instead of simply collecting [residents'] signatures there.

"We can send a strong message if we are united … and touch people's hearts."

The alliance received about HK$1.72 million, a quarter less than last year. But donors gave the equivalent of HK$24,000 in yuan, the same as last year.

Lee said the alliance would use HK$1 million to help set up a HK$5 million permanent home for a June 4 museum, possibly in a Cheung Sha Wan factory building. They had raised HK$3.5 million so far, he said.

A temporary exhibition marking the emergence and suppression of the pro-democracy movement that swept the mainland 24 years ago is showing at City University until July 15. They hoped to relaunch the exhibition by early next year, he said.

This year, Hong Kong saw a split in its commemoration of the crackdown, with young people holding smaller vigils away from the main venue at Victoria Park.

The main organisers also upset a mainland victims' group. They dropped part of the slogan, "Love the country, love the people", after it was criticised as stupid by Professor Ding Zilin , founder of the Tiananmen Mothers' support group, whose son died in the incident.

Nevertheless, tens of thousands of people braved a downpour and gathered to demand that the authorities right the wrong. The organisers said 150,000 people took part, lower than their target of 180,000. Police reported 54,000 attendees, down from 85,000 last year.

The vigil came to an abrupt end last night as the heavy rain caused flooding and made electrical cables hazardous.

Some attendees said they were touched by the vigil, but assistant professor Horace Chin Wan-kan, who had urged a boycott, launched a tirade.

"The vigil showed the 'political foolishness index' in Hong Kong remained high, and the altar of demons was still crowded," Chin wrote on his Facebook page. "But [the alliance's] drama could not go on. This year heavy rain poured down on the demons; next year thunder shall strike over and again."

Meanwhile, mainland activist You Minglei was reportedly stopped and questioned by customs officers at Fuzhou Changle International Airport in Fujian yesterday. He was pictured at the vigil in yesterday's , holding a cardboard sign aloft with the message, "Thank you, Hong Kong". He was told he was stopped as he was carrying a copy of and a book on the Cultural Revolution - both prohibited items.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Plan to engage more activists in next June 4 vigil